The only thing Jerry Cooper loved more than golf was his family. He introduced his son Paul to the game and later got Paul’s kids Brett, Perri and Bradley, hooked as well. Jerry (known as “Poppy” to his grandkids), lived with Parkinson’s and passed away in 2015. But thanks to his family and his favorite sport, Jerry’s legacy lives on.
During a rare moment when the entire family was home on Long Island, New York, “We started brainstorming different fundraising ideas to support Parkinson’s research,” says Perri. “Our friends host Pancakes for Parkinson’s for Team Fox so we were familiar with the Foundation and felt good knowing that all of the fundraising goes directly to research,” says Barbara Cooper (Paul’s wife and the mother of Brett, Perri and Bradley).
Knowing that they wanted to combine family and golf, the Coopers created Fore Parkinson’s, a golf marathon in which the family plays as many holes as they can throughout a single day. The fundraising comes in through donors who pledge per hole or “buy” specific holes. “The idea was built around all of us playing together, planning together, and celebrating my dad together,” says Paul. “Everyone has a role.”
Paul is the “business know-how” behind Fore Parkinson’s, having sat on various charity boards and participated in events like the Long Island March of Dimes golf outing.
Barbara has served as the resident photographer but has since passed the role on to her future daughter-in-law Nicole. Now, Barbara focuses on the post-event follow up, sending personal handwritten notes to every single donor. Last year, they included reusable grocery bags as a thank you.
Bradley, currently in college in Maryland, designed the Fore Parkinson’s logo, which appears on those grocery bags and golf shirts. As the “artistic presence” in the family he leads on color choices and all design elements. Ultimately, final decisions are made as a family he says, “Everyone is very involved when it comes to decisions, whether it’s formatting or different donation methods.”
Brett, who recently graduated from law school and is now working in New York City, manages the golf side of things. “I take notes and play golf,” he jokes. “I’m the active conduit between the group and the golf and I take minutes during board meetings and general meetings,” he explains. As a former aspiring professional golfer, it’s safe to say Brett is well-qualified for the role.
Perri, who’s currently pursuing an MBA in Austin, Texas, is the Team Fox liaison and oversees their fundraising page. On social media, she runs the Fore Parkinson’s channels and provides directives for the family members’ personal pages. “All of the kids are involved in raising awareness via social media,” she says. She also serves as the bookkeeper, recording stats and totaling the results to track donations.
In 2018, even with an unfavorable weather forecast, the numbers were nothing short of impressive. “It would have been my father’s 90th birthday so the goal was to raise $9,090 and play 90 holes. We wanted to make sure we got in 72 holes before it poured,” recalls Paul. “We ended up playing through the pouring rain for at least 90.”
“93!” Perri confirms.
That first year the Coopers managed to raise over $23,000 for The Michael J. Fox Foundation. “I wasn’t surprised at all because of who we were raising money for,” says Brett. “A decent portion of the people who donated knew my grandfather at some level. It was a testament to the people who knew him and those who have come to know of him in recent years.”
Bradley on the other hand, was “astounded by the support.” He says, “When I let my friends and fraternity brothers know about the event and why we’re doing it, it was eye-opening to see how many people are affected by Parkinson’s. So many thanked me for what we’re doing and offered to help.”
Perri had a similar reaction and adds, “It’s not common for people to talk about how their family is impacted by Parkinson’s. Our fundraiser serves as an outlet for people to share their own experiences with the disease.” And that’s one way the family is continuing to evolve the event. “A main difference for us between the first two years is the involvement of others who are impacted by the disease but might not have known my grandfather personally,” says Perri.
In 2019 that difference resulted in over $50,000 raised — more than double what they raised in 2018 — and 197 holes played. “This wouldn’t have been accomplished without the support of David and Lisa Sreter and the Warburg Pincus Foundation” Paul explained. In addition to including other golfers and teams, they aim to expand through sponsorship and potentially through the addition of a cocktail event. “I’m hoping that we can grow as far as the people that participate, but that the feel and camaraderie continues to be the same. The time spent with my entire family is my favorite part,” says Brett.
To ensure longevity of the event, Barbara says, “More of a presence in the younger generation can help to broaden the web.” Bradley agrees, “We want our networks to take over and have it come full circle so that others affected by Parkinson’s hear about it and want to join.”
The Coopers’ advice for other families looking to advance Parkinson’s disease research in honor of a loved one? “Find something that you all love and share it together,” says Paul. “My father would’ve loved it. We’ll keep doing this until there is no longer Parkinson’s.”
Consider joining Team Fox and combining your favorite activity or hobby with fundraising, just like the Coopers. There's no limit to what our Team Fox community can achieve, together.